Knitted doll holding a note asking for a friend at Christmas.

Knitted toys made with love give cuddles to children at Christmas.

The ‘Ladies who Knit’ for our campaigns kindly donated hand-made knitted toys, all made with love, giving cuddles to children this Christmas. This year, Christmas for many families will be hard. Sadly, for some, Father Christmas and children’s presents take a back seat behind whether they can heat or eat.

Christmas is traditionally when Father Christmas brings presents, and families relax as the magic of Christmas begins. Sadly, the cost-of-living crisis and 12 years of brutal austerity has taken their toll, made worse by a mess created by a government that doesn’t care. However, it doesn’t mean that we, as a community, follow suit.

Many charities, communities and large businesses have united. And thanks to the kindness of those who want to make a difference and give a helping hand, Father Christmas now has knitted toys; made with love and offers cuddles to children this Christmas.

Collage of knitted toys, baby clothes & blankets donated to us  to children at christmas.
Ladies who Knit are ace!

The cost-of-living crisis means the cost of baby clothes has risen dramatically.

The original Verve ‘Knitting for Babies’ campaign, which helped mums keep babies warm and snug over the last three years, changed. It became the Knitted Baby Clothes to support Mums in Winter because, like many women, I saw the rising cost of living. It meant Father Christmas was in danger of missing many children as the increasing cost of living and substantial price hikes, especially for baby and children’s clothes, had spiralled.

Children missing out on Christmas is not the blame of parents. Many parents are working, and wages don’t cover the costs of raising a family. Sadly, they decide to heat or eat, and Christmas is usually the time to celebrate as they reap the rewards of working. Now, they struggle to pay bills. Whatever they have left goes back to heating and eating.

Regardless of a government that did a lousy job of doing what it should be doing, they hadn’t met the Ladies who Knit. Nor did they know about the determination of Ladies who Knit, coming together to make sure children have knitted toys made with love to cuddle this Christmas.

knitted doll holding a note asking to be named and give cuddles to a child this Christmas.
The Ladies who Knit are ace!

Communities come together to make the best out of a bad job.

I was a child of the seventies; times were hard. When I was a child, my Mum paid weekly for toys or bikes from local shops to ensure Father Christmas didn’t forget us. Yet Mum still managed to get by even though some voted for Ted and spent four days in bed. Also, the late seventies were an era of power cuts. We were often plunged into darkness, usually when the telly was at its best. However, we became accustomed to finding candles and saucers to light them on quickly, and we stoked up the fire to stay warm.

Many Mums today can’t put something away for Christmas. They can’t afford it as benefits cuts and wages often don’t even cover the rent, let alone heating or food. Without the support of Not for Profit Charities and food banks, Mums and their children are in danger of becoming vulnerable. It was also why, when the pandemic hit, I started the Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal. I knew from experience what it’s like growing up with the same amount of nothing as my neighbours. But we had each other, and communities came together. Like today, we made the best of a bad job by a government that again didn’t care.

The Ladies who Knit recognise hard times; they have empathy.

Thankfully, as I lovingly refer to them, the lovely ‘Ladies who Knit’ read my blogs. They volunteer knitting because they have empathy; they, too, have known hard times in their lives. However, as many admit, 12 years of austerity, a pandemic, and a government intent on dishing out cruelty are hurting now. It’s time to fight back; our weapons of choice are knitting needles and crochet hooks. However, we won’t harm anyone as our weapons blend love, empathy and compassion.

Since the campaigns began, the Ladies who Knit have donated thousands of knitted toys, baby clothes, hearts, teddies, bereavement blankets, and knitted poppies. You name it; they knit it because everything they make goes directly to Mums or organisations, like the Swan team at Salford Royal Hospital, who need them. These knitted items, made with love, help mums keep their babies warm. Firstly, they prevent them from becoming vulnerable.

Secondly, the elephant in the room that no one speaks of (because they fear it will come true) is the fear of social services. Mums, especially those already at risk, worry about having their children taken from them. It’s unacceptable to live like this. It’s also why I create campaigns to stop Mums and their children from becoming vulnerable in the first place.

Knitted items donated to Tyldesley Sure Start centre recently.
I delivered knitted donations recently to Tyldesley Sure Start Centre.

A ball of wool prevents Mums from becoming vulnerable.

I recruit foster carers for the Not- for- Profit sector. Before Verve, I worked for a large Independent Fostering Agency; I know about the profits from children in care. I also understand that the cost of a ball of wool, mixed with a fierce determination from women who also know, means we can prevent mums and children from becoming vulnerable. It’s why we all do what we do; all 150+ of us. The knitters include knitting groups like the Ashton Knit and Natter group, run by the Salvation Army, and the ladies from the Phoenix Crafters group. They all know, too…

You would be amazed at how many women; know. These women are in the community, Sure Start centres, and on estates where families belong. These women are the angels of our community. They are women like Anne Pinkney, who manages the Valley Community Centre in Swinton. Anne knows which mums need help and make it her business with others who know to get the help mums need. As a result, more mums go to community centres and food banks to access help without fear of judgement. They are now the mums on an estate who all have the same amount of nothing, but they have the Annes of this world. And that’s the difference they need, especially at Christmas.

A ball of wool creates knitted toys made with love, too.

Once more, because the Ladies who Knit; know. They’ve been there themselves at some point, but no matter how bad things were, Father Christmas always brought gifts to children. The Ladies who Knit knew what I meant when I said some children might not get a visit from Father Christmas this year.

Our children don’t need to know about austerity; they’ve just lost two years of their little lives to a pandemic. No matter how hard things get, our children need the magic of Father Christmas, and Rudolph and his reindeer must remain sacrosanct. Therefore, this year’s solution comes from a ball of wool, creating a knitted toy, and hugs from Father Christmas. (Made secretly with love from the Ladies who Knit.)

Collage of knitted donations, text reads, Happy Christmas
Ladies who Knit are ace!

Changing perceptions to accepting help is essential.

Anne Pinkey and I recently went to Buille Hill Park Hall, Salford Xmas Fair and donated some of the knitted toys and baby clothes to local families. I’ve been to their events before; I love them as they are always well-organised. Also, there is always a good crowd of other stallholders who, like us, want to help. Many of these stallholders represent charities or community groups. Some are from within the NHS; they share information on the emergency services people may need and how to access support networks. Also, I love music. Buille Hill always has fantastic singers and bands; sometimes, local children sing, and the atmosphere is lovely.

Many mums saw the knitted toys and clothes on our table and said how beautiful they were. However, we didn’t have prices because there was no cost. Some mums were wary of asking how much they cost; we know that pride is important, so we showed them the card explaining they were no cost, they were free.

No one has ever given us anything for free!

The ladies who donated wanted to lend a helping hand; they gave them free to us; therefore, we reciprocated their kindness.

The reaction, for many, was one of shock. We expected it may have surprised some; however, we didn’t fully understand its impact as many had never had anything for free. One Mum said, ‘you mean there’s no cost? No one has ever given anything for free. Especially something as beautiful as these.’ I looked at Anne, and we both thought the same. Maybe it’s time we just did.

Anne Pinkney smiling and holding a note which said all the knitted items were free of charge, they were donated by Ladies who Knit because they want to make a difference.
Anne Pinkney is holding the note that made the difference. Happy Christmas.

If you know someone who needs a hand, give us a shout!

Times are hard, but compassion and understanding are everywhere. We have knitted toys and beautiful knitted baby clothes if you need a hand. The knitted toys are here to help Mums, Nana, and Granddads, and I will donate them to community and Sure Start centres before Christmas. We understand that for many, the choice may be to put the heating on or get into debt. Please get in touch if you need a hand; don’t get into debt. We truly are all in this together. Even the big boys like Amazon are digging in to help…

Thanks to the extraordinary kindness of Amazon, we have beautiful baby wool. This wool is a God’s send as many of the Ladies who Knit are on a pension. They, too, are hit by crazy price hikes for wool. Amazon also donated 40 blankets to be used in the Warm Packs Appeal for Higher Fold Community Centre in Leigh.

The priority now is kindness.

More of us are people who know; we are everywhere. The main priority is to help others with kindness. Furthermore, wherever we can, we want to stop people and their families from becoming vulnerable. Thanks to the Ladies who Knit, our little people will be warm and happy with knitted toys made with love. Thank you, Ladies; you are lovely.

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